Federal environment minister Greg Hunt’s first cousin has taken the extraordinary action of suspending herself 12 metres in the air to block access to construction vehicles and interrupt work at Santos’ controversial Leewood coal seam gas wastewater plant in the Pilliga, north-west NSW.
Jen Hunt is a 51-year-old retired social worker, a mother of two and stepmother of six. She is the latest of a series of people who have taken peaceful direct action and risked arrest to stop the controversial project over the last two months.
Ms Hunt says she wants to send a message to her cousin about the need to protect the Great Artesian Basin. So she suspended herself on a platform hanging from a tree in an effot to halt Santos’ construction work.
She was joined today by 20 supporters including two ‘climate angels’ from Lismore who are part of an international theatrical movement for peaceful climate action. In the past two weeks ten people have been charged for involvement in protests at the Leewood site.
‘Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga is an issue of national significance. Santos’ plans to drill 850 coal seam gas wells straight through a critical recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin, threatening this vital water source for communities, agriculture and ecosystems across 22 per cent of inland Australia,’ Ms Hunt said.
‘I’m up this tree today to call on my cousin Greg Hunt to use his powers under the Federal EPBC Act to reject Santos’ application for the Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga for its unacceptable risks to our precious groundwater resources.’
‘With love, I’m asking my cousin to start putting the people before the polluters. We do not need this expensive gas which is destined for export – we certainly don’t need it at risk of destroying one of the most critical water resources we have in Australia.’
The Leewood wastewater treatment facility targeted today is the subject of a court case by Pilliga-based group People for the Plains.
The group will argue the facility should require a separate assessment process, including an Environmental Impact Statement and a public consultation period.
Leewood is designed to treat up to a million litres of CSG wastewater from Santos’ exploratory works in the Pilliga. Protestors are targeting this facility for its inherent risks and its significance to the ongoing development of the Narrabri Gas Project.
The Narrabri Gas Project has been ‘called in’ under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act for its risk to water resources, and is therefore within Greg Hunt’s scope of influence.